On Friday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a lengthy interview to MSNBC’s Andea Mitchell, part of a new phase in the Democratic frontrunner’s campaign for president. As expected, a major focus of the interview was the white-hot email “scandal” that has contributed to a slide in the polls that has Democrats eyeballing a Joe Biden run (or, rather, the media noise about the email story).
Whatever you think about the email issue (I think it’s garbage), Andrea Mitchell could hardly be accused of giving it short-shrift, spending more than 12 minutes of a 29-minute interview trying to get Hillary to say the magic words “I’m sorry” for using a private email server for State Department business. On Tuesday morning, though, Mitchell revealed that not only would she have spent more time on the emails if she could have, but that she also blew almost the entire allotted time on it:
“We were told we had a 15 minute interview. I had spent more than 12 minutes on e-mail before I felt, out of concern that they would, you know, cut it off, obviously, that I had to move on. So I couldn’t ask everything I did want to ask.”
That’s right, folks, as far as Andrea Mitchell knew, she was blowing 83% of her interview with Hillary Clinton on the email story, and wished she could have flogged it even longer and harder. That Hillary Clinton generously extended the interview by double the time doesn’t change the fact that Mitchell apparently thinks the email story is 12 times more important than the Iran nuclear deal, and infinitely more important than immigration, or trade, or #BlackLivesMatter, or any of the million other things Mitchell ignored in favor of this garbage.
Even if you think the email story actually is a big deal, or merely that the attention surrounding it makes it a big deal (Mitchell even had the nerve to reference the “noise” surrounding the story, which is a bit like Satan saying “Jesus, it’s hot in here!”), the amount of attention Mitchell gave to it is absurd, and an illustration of just how absurd the rest of the media’s focus on this story is. Hillary Clinton gave a 29-minute interview, and the only thing anyone (including Mitchell) is talking about is that she didn’t say “I’m sorry.”
Almost as ridiculous is the fact that Hillary Clinton did, as a matter of substance, pretty much say she was sorry. “Well, I certainly wish that I had made a different choice, and I know why the American people have questions about it,” she said, and added “in retrospect, it certainly would have been better, I take responsibility, I should have had two accounts, one for personal and one for work-related.”
That Hillary as much as apologized without actually apologizing is a mistake, in my opinion, because it carries with it all the liabilities of apologizing, without any of the benefits. It came off like Hillary Clinton not saying “I’m sorry” mostly because Andrea Mitchell so badly wanted her to say it. That’s a natural instinct, but not necessarily a wise one. What would have happened if Mitchell had asked “Are you sorry?”, and Hillary’s response had been “Yep?” The headline Hillary Clinton was trying to avoid was “Clinton ‘Sorry’ For Email Flap,” but it would also have meant never having to answer that question again. Instead, she got the (much better, somehow?) headline “Clinton Refuses to Apologize for Using Private Email: ‘It Wasn’t the Best Choice’,” and the opportunity to answer the question “Why won’t you apologize?” over and over again.
It wouldn’t have settled the email issue, but it would have settled that particular question, and would have subsequently demonstrated to voters that the anti-Hillary media simply will not take “yes” for an answer.
The goalposts on this story are ever-shifting, a game that the media has been happy to play along with, but the original complaint was a record-keeping issue. Hillary’s explanation, that sending her replies to .gov email accounts would ensure their preservation, is a little cute, but not unreasonable.
Her explanation for using one account has been met with skepticism, but there are two key factors that have gone underreported. One is that the server at the Clinton home was set up years before Hillary became secretary of state, which makes the convenience argument resonate more, since it wasn’t as much trouble to set up as people make it seem. The other is that the premise of secrecy, the idea that Hillary wanted a private server so she could send emails about how she was attending a White House fetus roast instead of rescuing personnel in Benghazi, is actually undermined by her exclusive use of private email.
If Hillary’s intention had been to create a secret stream of communication that she could delete at will, then she’d have been better served by establishing and using a .gov account as well, thereby creating a legitimate electronic paper trail to draw attention away from the real emails. In either case, it would still be a matter of trusting Hillary, or any government official, to use the private account only for private emails.
There have also been great efforts made to erase the distinction of whether something was “marked” classified, on the logic that most everything a secretary of state says is, by definition, sensitive enough to be classified. As Hillary pointed out, though, a .gov account would have changed nothing about this, as it’s not a classified system. This entire story is just a Lazy Susan of rotating accusations and innuendos that amount to fifteen cents, not the dollar everyone’s been trying to make out of them.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Andrea Mitchell’s willingness to spend almost 13 minutes of a 15-minute scheduled interview asking Hillary if she’s sorry.